Masks are Protecting from Covid-19, but Not Cavities
By: Daniella Palomino, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Fatou Yeli Kouroma, Editor; Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief
You have heard of “brace face” or even “metal mouth”, but it wasn’t until 2021, that a new name calling trend started. What medical professionals are starting to refer to as “mask mouth” is a new health battle fighting alongside Covid-19. What is this “mask mouth”? What causes it and how do you protect yourself from it? The answer is a little more complicated than just brushing and flossing your teeth or simply not wearing the mask.
What is ‘Mask Mouth’?
According to an interview with Dr. Rob Ramondi with the New York Post found on the Fine Art Dentistry website, about 50% of his patients in the United States have been affected by “mask mouth”. These are people who used to have healthy teeth and gums. This is not due to forgetting to floss every now and then, but because of the face masks that are protecting us from Covid-19. The sharp increase of hindered oral hygiene is blamed on the end of the quarantine. Everyone is now spending hours on end, whether at work or school or maybe even both, wearing masks. “Mask Mouth” is an umbrella term for anyone who begins to experience poor oral hygiene due to the implications of wearing the mask. This includes dry mouth, bad breath, tooth decay, and even forms of gum disease. Colgate specifies symptoms of ‘mask mouth’ as dry mouth, bad breath, and bleeding gums.
The Causes of ‘Mask Mouth’
Masks work to keep viruses and bacteria out, but also might trap some bacteria and viruses in. Breaking it down to basic biology, humans inhale oxygen, and exhale carbon dioxide. The masks trap the carbon dioxide you breathe out in your mouth more than usual. Although, it is not enough to have a toxic effect on your body (according to Aerosol and Air Quality Research), it increases your oral microbiome’s acidity. The more acidic this environment becomes, the better a home it creates for bacteria, which fosters infections and gum disease. The mask surprisingly also disrupts drinking patterns. This although does not sound as important, may be exactly what is leading to your bad breath. Dehydration leads to dry mouth, and dry mouth creates the ideal environment for tooth decay which also creates a bad odor. Not only are drinking patterns disrupted, but so are breathing patterns. PNMedical conducted a study, specified and summarized by Colagte, explaining how wearing a mask shallows breathing, relying more on breathing through the mouth and chest rather than the nose and diaphragm. This subtle change of breathing more through the mouth results in a decrease of saliva production. With less saliva, there is not enough to wash away the food crumbs stuck between teeth or defend your teeth from cavities.
How to Protect Yourself
The answer is not as simple as just saying, ‘Lets stop wearing masks!’ Masks still function as an effective barrier against Covid-19. It stops respiratory droplets from traveling beyond you into another person since it covers whenever a person talks, coughs, sneezes, or raises their voice. Part of the answer, though, is the basic brush and floss. Brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes, twice a day, and floss at least once a day. Even when you are unable to brush your teeth, since it is inconvenient to carry toothpaste and a toothbrush everywhere, try incorporating a mouthwash into your day between meals to fight the fostering bacteria. By simply being aware of your teeth, taking action to go to a dentist if there is pain or swelling in the gums could prevent the situation from becoming permanently detrimental. Staying hydrated to prevent dry mouth and using a clean mask to reduce bacterial growth also function as effective ways to protect your pearly whites.
Next time you are too lazy or tired to brush your teeth, let this be your motivation. Two minutes of brushing now can save thousands of minutes spent at a dentist’s office in the future.